(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Spotlight on violence against children

The inability of parents to bring enough food home leads in some cases to violence against children, experts say.
Kamila Hyat/IRIN

After her first year in the job, the UN Special Representative on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, told IRIN her major achievement has been to bring violence against children out into the open.

"Today, talking about violence against children is less taboo; years back, we would not have had the discussions we are having now," she told IRIN at a conference highlighting violence against children, held in Accra, capital of Ghana, on 2 September.

Between 133 million and 275 million children experience violence at home every year, most of whom live in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, according to the 2006 UN Study on Violence against Children.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General will pursue four priorities in the next two years: to see legislation prohibiting all forms of violence against children passed in more countries; gather more data on violence against children; set up better counselling networks for child victims of violence; and push all governments to follow the plan to eliminate violence against children set out in 2006. 

Children need to start trusting that when they complain about violence, they will not be ignored, which means setting up better complaints systems and follow-up response units in schools and other institutions, said Santos Pais.

Laws protecting children from violence should be made part of the constitution or enacted as separate legislation. "We need to move from planning to implementation," she stressed. So far, only 29 countries have passed such laws, with Tunisia and Kenya the only African countries to do so.

"We know very little still about violence and children - we speak about millions of children affected by violence, but in most countries we don't have details about the most vulnerable children: those abandoned in the street, in institutions, children affected by HIV-AIDS, or those who receive no social structure support," she told IRIN.

Ghana's Minister of Sports and Youth, Akua Sena Dansua, told IRIN that "All along I thought the children's act in our constitution was enough" to protect children, and until now she had not understood why a specific law would be needed. Now she plans to get one passed.


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